A Letter to My Non-Expat Self

by Rebecca A. Watson on August 7, 2014

in expat, love, optimism, travel, writing

Partially inspired by an old post and partially inspired by a comment on this post, I’ve decided to write a letter to the self I was before I lived overseas.

Not the one who knew just one year ago she was moving, mind you. Nope, the one circa 2012 perhaps. The one who was blissfully unaware of all that would come to pass.

This Rebecca.

This Rebecca.

Dear Rebecca of 2012,

I write to you from the future, from August of 2014 to be precise. I hope you’re doing well. Indeed you’re probably enjoying a summer of camping in the mountains and romping through the desert around this time.

I know you’re totally psyched to get this letter. A fan of time travel and all things supernatural, you’ll have no trouble believing that it’s possible to send post through time, not just space. So hooray!

I’ve come with tidings from Germany. Yes, Germany. I know what you’re thinking: How in the goddess’ name did you end up in a country you equate with boring lagers and lederhosen?

Well, it turns out there are parts of this country that are glorious. Mountains that stretch as far as the  eye can see. Rivers running through valleys. Surreal amounts of fresh grown produce and bike paths wherever you need them. Green technology reins supreme. Minus the fact that there’s no ocean, this place is pretty close fantastic.

So about that. The no ocean thing. I’m writing to tell you to run on the beach as often as you can. And head down to the shores every night to watch the sunset. You live a 3-minute bike ride away from there. Even on the cloudiest days, Santa Cruz sunsets are nothing to take for granted.


Not that this is a cloudy day. Or a sunset. But you get the idea.

Swim in the ocean. Screw your fear of sharks and jelly fish. So what that it’s ridiculously cold. A year and a half from now you will dive into that same ocean in the middle of December. What cold?

And kayak again. You and Sante had an amazing experience on the water. Do more of that.

Oh, and eat more seafood. Delicious, caught-the-same day salmon, ahi, crab and halibut. Seriously, eat it every day. Because as lovely as the rivers and lakes are here, they are nothing compared to the magnificence, the sheer beauty and the unadulterated awe that the ocean can conjure in you. And the abundance it provides is astounding. Revel in it.

Speaking of seafood and abundance, relish those conversations you have with the butchers at Staff of Life. The ones where they explain how they prepare sea bass and trout and scallops. Yes. Listen intently without waiting to share your own recipe. Enjoy the fact that you can understand every single nuance of this moment.

Because there will come a time when you will struggle to understand a woman who is simply telling you to boil water and toss some sausauge into it. There will be months where you will be afraid to ask where the bacon is.


When you finally find it, you will know why Germans love pigs so much.

Soon you will need to carry a paper dictionary with you in the grocery store because your translation app doesn’t work without internet access. Where you will stand for several minutes in an aisle trying to understand the difference between what turns out to be instant and normal oatmeal.

Yes, this will happen. And it will be your normal every day life. So relish the short and easy dialogue between you and the folks who serve you every day.

And speaking of service. Remember how you were stunned by the state of customer service when you moved to Califronia?

Maybe part of it was your service industry background. Maybe part of it was your initial disdain for tipping at a slow-food counter store, but know this: That service is worth the tip.

You will not be treated kindly by the majority of staff members in any store, restaurant or establishment. It’s nothing personal. It just is part of the way things are. Smiles and well wishes are like an oasis in the desert. You will return to California and want to kiss the barista who chatted with you while he steamed your milk.

I don’t need to tell you to eat more Mexican food. That’s pretty much a given in your life. But like I said before, more fish tacos 🙂 And dear god enjoy how easy it is to get Tapatillo. A few years from now you’ll be wrapping those bottles in several plastic bags and praying your clothes will stay clean as you board the plane overseas.


I may have to start an importing service.

Know that your days of being cat called and harrassed on the street are numbered. Know that you will walk down the street without fear. Know that you will even *gasp* venture out at night without a second thought about how you’re dressed or what your plans are for getting home.

Know that you’re going to meet some of the most amazing folks — the most special, kind, funny and thoughtful people. Where you once felt alone, you will feel accepted and even loved.

Know that you’re going to grow beyond your wildest expectations — mentally (two words: German psychiatrist), physically (you ran your first 10k in 2013) and spiritually (prayer and magic baby).

Know that you’ll use more paprika in your cooking, look forward to Sante’s cooking brats from your gas grill with scharf mustard and get really really into apple juice mixed with soda water. You’ll stay up until midnight to watch football … erm, I mean soccer.

Know that you will be lonely and finally embrace that part of  you that feels so unloved instead of looking the other way.

Know that you will travel to wonderful places and experience life in beautiful ways.


Finally, know this: Even if life is feeling oh-so-tough, you are on your path. Even when you’re confused and adrift and just want something or someone to come along and tell you what to do, you’re not lost.

You’re doing amazingly well. And in fact, in some ways, your life is relatively easy. I say this to you not to belittle you or the feelings you have, but simply to open your eyes to the wonder and glory that is all around you.

And to remind you to trust. In yourself. In the Universe. In your story. It’s happening. And it’s spectacular.

Read all of my expat stuff here.

Photo Credit: My friend Sean McLean who you should probably go check out if you like photos of water, trees and rocks, Chris Isherwood

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne-Maree (AM) August 8, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Hi Rebecca,

I love this post so much.

And your MMP, they are like getting a postcard from a friend every week.

Stay well and happy lovely.

AM xx


Rebecca A. Watson August 8, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Awww thanks my dear 🙂 I hope you’re doing so well!


Maryn August 9, 2014 at 12:21 am

I love this! I’m thinking I can write a similar one to myself a few years from now after I reflect on my time in this new city 🙂

P.S. I’m so sorry I missed your workshop! I was traveling for a film project I’m doing and got mixed up on the time. I hope it went well and I’ll definitely make it to the next one.


Rebecca A. Watson August 11, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Oh I would love to read that letter when you write it 🙂 No worries about missing the workshop. You can still listen to it if you have the link in the email. I’m super excited about your film project!! Can’t wait to hear more about it.


Heather September 12, 2015 at 8:30 pm

Californian in Italy here. I love this letter. I wish I’d written one in time to my Los Angeles self.


Rebecca A. Watson September 15, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Thanks lady! You can still write one you know 😉


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